Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Bloody Chamber - The Sunday Salon Review

It is with great pleasure and relief that I tell you reading slump seems to be over. After a good month of struggling to read, I finally found a book that seems to have busted the Bookworm's Curse (the title and subject of tomorrow's BiblioBuffet column). And, finally, I have some reading to report for The Sunday Salon!

I don't remember exactly how many years Angela Carter's, The Bloody Chamber, has been lying unread on my stacks. I tried reading it a couple of times, but it never clicked. Carter's ornate language definitely requires a certain...lyrical mood? Yeah, that's it. It's lyrical, and I always have to be in the mood for lyrical.

I've read a huge amount of fairy tale retellings through the years
--it's my thing--so I've gotten to a point where very little seems new anymore. However, I'm tickled to say, Carter's writing and her unique take on great fairy tales really felt quite original, which is enough to make me dance with joy.

The title story is a great take on the story of Bluebeard, wherein the protagonist is married off to a rich man, taken to his castle, introduced to sex (ooh!) and he soon hands over the house keys, heads off on a journey, and she finds all the bodies of his former wives locked away in his private chamber. Nothing new there. However, Carter puts a decidedly feminist twist on her tales, and the young woman's savior takes a very distinct form compared to the other Bluebeard tales I've read.

Carter also tackles other well known tales like "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Beauty and the Beast." At first I was a little put off by the recurring retellings. That is, included in The Bloody Chamber are multiple retellings of the Red Riding Hood story and Beauty and the Beast. At first I thought it would be quite repetitive, but I was delighted to find that Carter does a nice job individuating her tales and making multiple retellings feel very unique and fresh.

I'm certainly a convert now. I have another of Carter's works, the novella Heroes and Villains, on my stacks. I suspect I may revisit Carter before the end of the Once Upon a Time II challenge! What better way to celebrate fantasy writing than with a supreme artist like Carter?

Additionally, this is the first complete book of stories I've finished for the Short Story Challenge! I'm excited to be able to tick another completed book off of my sidebar. And what a rich, seductive experience it was!

In other news, I'm currently reading two books:

  • Fables: Arabian Nights (and Days), by Bill Willingham, for the Graphic Novels challenge and the TBR Challenge.
  • Sorry, by Gail Jones, an Orange Prize nominee for review at BiblioBuffet.

I may post an update as the day goes by and I get more read. We'll be adjourning next door for Easter lunch, but I suspect it will be a very readerly afternoon. Happy holidays!


  1. Glad to hear you're back in a reading groove. And Happy Easter! :)

  2. Not read this one - sounds excellent. I do love the Angela Carter novels I've read though - WISE CHILDREN and The MAGIC TOYSHOP. Both were as creepy as this collection sounds, as claustrophobic, somehow too. She'd faded away from my consciousness a bit, thanks for bringing her back!

  3. Have you tried Feminist Fairy Tales by
    Barbara G. Walker?

  4. This was a set book for our first year undergrads and they always loved it - at least the women did, the men never quite knew how to take it. I haven't read anything else by her. I must look and see if there's anything among all those un-read books on my shelves!

  5. I really like the cover, the art on the cover is really great. The book also sounds good. I'll be interested in your final rating of it.

    happy sunday salon!

  6. It can be risky business rewriting a fairytale, but it sounds like this author was able to pull it off. I'll definitely have to keep an eye out for this one. Great review, Andi. Have a great week.

  7. Happy Easter! I'm glad you're back in the bookish groove once again.
    This book sounds fascinating to me - I had no idea that adult re-telling of fairy tales existed at all, much less was a genre of its own.

  8. I can't wait to read this later this year. I have had it on my list to read for years now. Like you I love fairy tale re-tellings and hope to watch A Company of Wolves when I have finished it.

  9. Wonderful review, Andi! I completely agree that she manages to make several versions of the same tale remain fresh and exciting, and that is no easy feat.

    I see that Rhinoa mentioned the movie version of A Company of Wolves, and I was about to recommend it. Angela Carter wrote the script herself, and Neil Jordan did a fabulous job with it. I just love it. It captures that dark, haunted fairy tale forest mood better than any other movie I've seen. You have to watch it!

  10. Nat, thanks! I'm really relieved. I hate reading slumps.

    Clare, I need to give Wise Children a go. As well as some of her others. They all look fantastic. And "claustrophobic" is a GREAT word for these. Everything's so ornately written and tightly packed, it does feel quite claustrophobic. I always enjoy a writer who can create a tangible feeling like that, though. Joyce Carol Oates comes to mind.

    Fem, I haven't! I haven't even heard of those. Thanks for the tip.

    Ann, I can see the female undergrads really loving it. The men, I can imagine the astonished faces. lol

    Bethany, I love the cover art on all of Carter's novels. I need to look up the illustrator in fact. If I had to give it a final rating, I would probably go with 8.5/10.

    LF, she's really one of the best retellers I've read. I've read retellings for children, young adults, adults--this is really one of the most expertly executed collections I've read. Highly recommended!

    Becca, it's by far one of my favorte genres (see the post about Fable and my thesis). I devoted quite a bit of time in grad school to fairy tale retellings, and in fact one of my first classes embraced retellings. Another favorite is definitely Anne Sexton's Transformations--a book of poetry based on the Grimms fairy tales.

    Rhinoa, I didn't even realize that Company of Wolves is a movie! Eeek! Thanks for the tip!

  11. Thanks for the endorsement of the movie, Nymeth! Like I said, I had no idea it even existed! How exciting to find a new goodie. I'll put it on my Netflix list and snatch it up after I watch the final Pirates of the Caribbean movie this week on Spring Break. :D

  12. I've already picked my books for Once Upon a Time II, but I'm going to see if I can possibly squeeze this one in. I just love the book cover design.


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